Friday, December 28, 2007


Statement on the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto

Brussels, 27 December 2007: The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007 is a serious blow to the re-emergence of democracy in Pakistan and the country’s return to stability. The leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party and former prime minister died alongside her colleagues and supporters campaigning in elections. The international community must now come together to push for a full investigation into the murders.

"Our condolences go to her family and to the people of Pakistan," said Gareth Evans, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. "Since the 1980s, she had been a vital and often under-estimated political force. Prospects for democracy and stability in Pakistan are much dimmer without her."

Pakistan’s military-backed interim government is not in a position to carry out a fair investigation into the assassination. The United Nations Security Council should meet urgently to establish an international commission of enquiry to determine who ordered and carried out the killings. Given the long-standing connections between the Pakistani military and jihadi groups, this would be the only way to carry out an impartial and credible investigation.

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto is dead; the latest victim of the turmoil in Pakistan. She, along with around 20 others who will forever be nameless and hence forgotten by history, was killed in Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi is the heartland of Pakistan's military establishment. There may or may not be a message in that.

Expect the myth-making to flow in earnest. Perhaps the best 'obituary' is this piece written by Tariq Ali before Bhutto died. It wasn't meant as an obituary, which is why it is perhaps more honest than the standard Hollywood accounts.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Press Release 11.12.2007

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, support and uphold the call of a coalition of organizations and individuals in Gaza for an international campaign to end the siege on Gaza. We call on members of Israeli society to join the campaign.

Since June 2007, Israeli isolation policies towards the Gaza Strip have escalated. While controlling all points of exit from the Gaza Strip, the government of Israel has increasingly restricted passage of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip, leading to severe hardship and a drastic curtailing of the basic sources of sustenance and health of the population of the Gaza Strip.

All but 12 basic commodities have been blocked entry to the Gaza Strip, causing shortages in water, fuel, medications, essential equipment, raw materials and thousands of other essential commodities. In November alone, 13 patients died after Israeli authorities denied them access to medical care that is unavailable in Gaza.

Both Palestinians and Israelis have a right to live in peace and security, but the Israeli government policy of collective punishment is pushing the entire region further from security, and is morally and legally unjustifiable.

No progress can be achieved in any peace process while Gaza, still an occupied territory, is excluded from discussion and its civilian population punished. The lifting of the siege is therefore at the heart of Israeli, Palestinian and regional interests.

In November 2007, a group of Palestinian non-partisan human rights organizations and civil society leaders launched a call for a joint Palestinian-International-Israeli campaign to end the siege on Gaza.

The aims of the campaign are to call upon the Israeli government to lift the siege and stop other collective measures imposed on the civilian population of Gaza, to raise the awareness of the Israeli public and the international community to the deteriorating living conditions resulting from the siege, and to mobilize governments and communities to stop the boycott of Gaza.

The End the Siege campaign is humanitarian, non-partisan and based on the tenets of human rights and social justice. It is guided by the wish to end all forms of violence in our region.

On the Palestinian side, End the Siege is initiated and managed by "representatives of civil society, the business community, intellectuals, women activists, and advocates for human rights and peace from both the West Bank and Gaza, all expressing their commitment to peace and their respect for human dignity". On the Israeli side, End the Siege supporters include human rights organizations and other actors in civil society. The call is open to all who wish to join it.

From the call: " We are determined to move hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder with all people who believe in freedom, human dignity and peace…. It is time to put aside any partisan conflicts and unite people in the pursuit of freedom, justice, and peace."

Planned activities include:
- Documentation and dissemination of information on the impact of the siege: a website, posters and video clips of daily life in Gaza .
- International symposium in Gaza: "Breaking the Siege on Gaza: Together for a United Front for Peace".
- International delegations to Gaza and Israel .
- Meetings and cultural activities in Gaza, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and different cities in the world.
- A peaceful march to Erez Crossing from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the Crossing with peace activists from all over the world.
- A "Free Gaza Movement Day" in May, including a boat journey from Cyprus to Gaza.

For details or to join the campaign, contact:


Anarchists Against the Wall
Bat Shalom
Bat Tsafon
Coalition of Women for Peace
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Gush Shalom
Hamoked Centre for the Defense of the Individual
New Profile
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel
Shomrei Mishpat - Rabbis for Human Rights
Ta'ayush – Arab-Jewish Partnership
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
The Israeli Committee for the Palestinian Prisoners and Detainees
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The word 'Islamist' really gets on my nerves. What the hell does it mean? The term is an inadvertent admission of racist ignorance towards Islam. Oh, I don't really know much about Islam, but yes something about that bunch of people over there is very Islamic, um no, not that. Hmmm...Islamist? Yes, it's all very Islamist.

The term Islamist is as absurd as the term Christianist, which as far as I am aware, does not exist. Why, doesn't George Bush openly admit to believing that God told him to invade Iraq and counts among his supporters a large base of messianic Christians who look forward to the day of Armageddon within their lifetimes? Why don't we call him a Christianist?

Worth also noting that Israel's supporters are often called Zionists not Judaists. Think about it.

"The biggest Muslim"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holocaust denial in the Muslim world

...every culture, every religion honors the memory of the dead and one aspect of honoring that memory is respecting the specific circumstances of their deaths. It should be obvious that it is deeply offensive to rewrite these circumstances for the sake of political convenience or, worse, for amusement.

Yet, there are many understandable reasons why Holocaust denial is to be found in the Muslim world. The assertion that the Nazis exterminated millions of Jews in an assembly-line fashion does seem hard to believe. I remember a very decent Palestinian in a refugee camp whispering to me not in malice but in wonderment, Did it really happen? In fact many Jewish leaders in the West did not believe it themselves when witnesses from the death camps managed to escape and inform them.

Moreover, because Israel has consistently lied about the history of the Israel-Arab conflict, alleging that Palestine was empty before the Jews came and that the Arabs are responsible for all the wars Israel has fought, it is unsurprising that many Arabs would also conclude that Israel is lying about what happened to Jews during World War II.

Norman Finkelstein "Some reflections on Holocaust denial in the Muslim world." The rest of the article is available here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Blast from the past

An ex-colleague just told me that the head of the division within the Australian Government department where I used to work has just been made Chief of Staff to the new Labor Minister. It was only after I heard this news I realized just how similar this division head is to Kevin Rudd. Like Rudd he is a short, bespectacled, softly-spoken man with the particular skill of being able to say very little with a lot of words. Like Rudd his speeches can put you to sleep. I worked in one of the more controversial policy areas of the previous government and the common sentiment was that this particular division head failed to provide any sense of direction both professionally and in terms of policy. I hope this past experience is not portentous!

Monday, December 03, 2007

More on the scandalous Annapolis 'peace' conference

NOAM CHOMSKY: Before saying a word, I’d like to express some severe personal discomfort, because anything I say will be abstract and dry and restrained. The crimes against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and elsewhere, particularly Lebanon, are so shocking that the only emotionally valid reaction is rage and a call for extreme actions. But that does not help the victims. And, in fact, it’s likely to harm them. We have to face the reality that our actions have consequences, and they have to be adapted to real-world circumstances, difficult as it may be to stay calm in the face of shameful crimes in which we are directly and crucially implicated.